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Protein: A Popular Topic Of Conversation

Protein is a popular topic of discussion. What is it? Protein in foods we eat is made from many amino acids arranged in different sequences according to the type of protein. It is the unique arrangement of these amino acids that makes proteins different. Every cell in our body contains protein and amino acids arranged in specific orders are the building blocks that make these proteins.

Why do we need protein?

  • Amino acids from protein make and repair all different types of body proteins including body tissues like muscles, organs, bone and skin.  Growth, repair of tissues and replacing body cells as they wear out require amino acids.   They also regulate many body processes, are a part of the body’s defense system and even help transport oxygen in the blood to body cells.  These are just a few functions of amino acids in the body.

Where do we get protein?

  • Both animal and plant food sources contain protein.  Animal sources contain all of the essential amino acids and are called complete proteins.  

  • Most plant sources supply amino acids but lack one or more of the essential amino acids and are called incomplete proteins.  Different plant sources lack different essential amino acids but combining two plant sources that are lacking different essential amino acids makes a complete protein.  Proteins from soybeans and quinoa are plant based proteins that do contain all of the essential amino acids and are considered complete protein.  

What are some sources of protein?

  • Great animal based proteins include lean cuts of meat like round steak, sirloin and ground beef that is 93% lean or greater. Enjoy skinned poultry like chicken and turkey and choose a variety of seafood.  Eggs are another option.

  • Some plant based proteins to enjoy include dried beans like pinto, kidney, black beans, navy beans, red beans and great northern beans.  Dried peas including chickpeas (garbanzos) made into hummus and split peas made into split pea soup are delicious. Soy products like tofu and tempeh can be prepared many ways.  Nuts and seeds contain protein but are high in calories so enjoy in small amounts.  

Becky Varner, MS RD LD


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